The history museum in downtown Greenville has an interesting exhibit about Native American tribes in the South Carolina Upcountry. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children and students age 4 to 18 and free for children age 3 and under.
“…The Great Buzzard flew all over the world…when he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap…wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and when they turned up again there was a mountain.” Cherokee myth
“The males of the Cherokee…are tall, erect, and moderately robust, their limbs well shaped so as generally to form a perefect human figure…”
William Bartram, naturalist, 1791
Drawing of early Cherokee settlements in the Carolinas.
Over time the Cherokee settlements turned into towns that were more spread out and more advanced than earlier villages, as illustrated in the Tennessee’s Chota town layout below.
Trade and war
In 1730, seven Cherokee warriors went to London to sign a treaty with the British government. They signed a trade agreement that will eventully build colonial fortunes for Great Britain. European traders obtained deerskins and sometimes slaves from the Cherokees. In the early 1700s, South Carolina exported 54,000 deerskins annually.
Native Americans became dependent on European manufactured goods, such as fabric, farming tools, hardware and weapons. They soon exhausted the deer population.
Mounting debt forced them to sell land in order to satisfy their creditors.
Treaties between the Cherokees and the Charlestown-based government limited European settlement in the Upcountry. South Carolina Governor James Glen secured treaties with Native Americans in 1743 that promoted trade and designated land for European settlement. However, as Piedmont region offered rich soil and clean water for farming, settlers ignored these treaties and moved into Native American land.
In response, the Cherokees attacked the settlements in 1759. The following winter,
at Fort Prince George, the colonial militia killed hostages when Cherokee warriors stormed the fort.
After intese fighting a new treaty was signed creating a new boundary between Cherokee lands and European settlements.
During the American Revolution the Cherokees sighted with the British, hoping they would stop the advancement of the settlements. Patriot militia burned Cherokee towns and crops. On May 20, 1777 at DeWitt’s Corner, Outacite and other Cherokee leaders gave up their lands to the new American government.
The Catawbas settled east along the Catawba and Wateree Rivers. They often fought with the Cherokees over precious Upcountry land. When the Europeans arrived the tribes agreed to a truce in order to participate in trading. Over time Catawba pottery became highly desired by European settlers who used it for cooking.
Once a distinct nation, by the 1730s, the Catawbas became an amalgam of different trives joined together from wars, settler incursion and disease. By 1760, war and smallpox ravaged the Catawbas to just about 500 people.
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